GRAMBLING, La. (Lindsey Athletics) – For the first time in program history, the Lindsey Wilson football team will be bringing home the big red banner to Columbia, Kentucky. In a season with so much uncertainty, the Blue Raiders capped off a perfect 11-0 season with a 45-13 win over Northwestern (Iowa) in the NAIA FCS National Championship Game.
It was a tremendous individual performance for quarterback Cameron Dukes, who was eventually crowned the Offensive Player of the Game. Dukes went 18-of-24 through the air for 157 yards while producing three rushing touchdowns on the ground. Overall, Lindsey Wilson outgained Northwestern on offense in yards at 347-to-231.
On the other side of the field, Michael Leslie claimed the Defensive Player of the Game honor. Leslie corralled nine total tackles while earning half of a sack and half a tackle for loss. As a team, the Blue Raiders defense forced five punts, turned over Northwestern three times on downs, and held the Red Raiders to a season-low in yards (231) and points (13).
Northwestern claimed the ball in the opening possession, pulling together a seven-play drive which resulted in a punt. Lindsey Wilson took full advantage by driving the ball right down the field with a 13 play, 75-yard drive that lasted 5:38 which concluded in a Dukes one yard touchdown rush.
After the touchdown, both squads added a punt each on offense before Northwestern was hit with a crucial mistake early in the second quarter. On the Red Raiders third possession and deep in their own territory, a bad punt gave Lindsey Wilson the ball on the NC 18 yard line. However, despite the great field position, the Blue Raiders were forced to eventually settle for a 33-yard field goal from Ian Sauter.
After forcing a fourth straight Northwestern punt, Lindsey Wilson jumped even further ahead on the scoreboard. On a big third down, Noel Patterson claimed a wide receiver pitch and reversed field where he sped his way past the defense for a 41-yard touchdown.
Not to be denied, the Red Raiders pulled together a staggering 17 play, 75-yard drive which was capped off by a passing touchdown on fourth down on the goal line with just seconds remaining in the first half.
Lindsey Wilson received the kickoff out of the halftime locker room, and quickly made a return statement. An eight-play, 61-yard drive that chipped 3:34 off the clock was completed with Dukes punching in his second rushing touchdown of the game from two yards out to give the Blue Raiders a 24-7 lead.
After the touchdown, the Lindsey Wilson defense stepped up big by forcing Northwestern to turn the ball over on downs at its own 47-yard line. This proved to be a large mistake for the Red Raiders, as a 46 yard rush from Darius Clark opened the opportunity for Kobe Belcher to roll in a one-yard rushing touchdown.
Despite trailing by 24 points, Northwestern held firm by pushing out a scoring drive of its own that resulted in six points after a missed two-point conversion attempt.
However, for the third time on the night, it was Dukes who called his own number for a rushing touchdown, this one from three yards out. The mighty drive lasted 14 plays, went 45 yards, and cut 7:45 off the game clock.
Another turnover on downs for Northwestern flipped the possession back in favor of the Blue Raiders, who executed the final scoring drive of the game. This time, it was Cameron Evans who entered the game and carried it six yards for a touchdown.
Earlier on Monday, head coach Chris Oliver was named the AFCA-NAIA National Coach of the Year. Oliver, who became the program’s first ever head coach back in 2010, improves his overall record to 93-33 alongside winning his first national championship.